Fianna Fáil Health spokesperson Billy Kelleher TD says women’s lives are being put at risk because of consistent delays in the extension of the BreastCheck programme. The life-saving screening service was due to be rolled out to women aged between 65 and 69 this year, however following a Parliamentary Question from Deputy Kelleher it has now emerged that the programme will not be extended until October 2015 at the earliest, while the full roll out will not happen until 2021.
Deputy Kelleher commented, “There is no doubt that consecutive delays to the full roll out of the BreastCheck programme is costing lives, and the Government’s commitment to the life-saving screening scheme must be questioned. In the 2011 Programme for Government, then Health Minister James Reilly promised to extend the scheme to women up to the age of 69 by the end of 2014, however the funding never materialised and Minister Leo Varadkar says it will be October 2015 before women in the 65-69 age bracket will be eligible for a BreastCheck appointment.
“BreastCheck is a vital service in the battle against cancer. Thousands of lives have been saved as a result of early detection since the programme was first established in 2000. Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women in Ireland, with over 2,700 women between the ages of 50-64 diagnosed every year. Women aged between 65-69 have a 1 in 10 chance of getting breast cancer but are still not being screened, and for many it will be 2016 before they get called for a mammogram.
“Despite the promises made by this Government, they have not followed through on their commitments. BreastCheck has a proven record yet we have seen its extension delayed by almost two years. More than 40,000 women who would have been due a mammogram under the screening programme are losing out, putting as many as 80 lives at risk every year.
“The delays to this essential programme have been unacceptable. The Government must ensure that the latest commitment is has given to the service is honoured and that the BreastCheck service is rolled out to women aged 65-69 as quickly as possible”.